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Enemy Intelligence: Last week’s Cleveland Browns game

In preparation for this week’s game, I watched last week’s Cleveland Browns game.  In Week 3, the Browns beat the Miami Dolphins at home by a final tally of 17-16 thanks to a last-minute touchdown pass from Colt McCoy to Mohammad Massaquoi.

Here are somethings I noticed in watching the game:

  • Quarterback Colt McCoy tends to get the ball out very quickly, offsetting a pass rush, with mostly short throws to receivers moving horizontally.  If you watched the Rams play last year, their OC Pat Shurmur is now the OC in Cleveland, and the offense is conceptually similar.  The Titans will need to be disciplined in zone coverage and not get out of position.
  • The Dolphins had some success with E-T stunts, less so with T-T stunts.
  • McCoy can break down if he can’t get the ball out quickly. The Dolphins got an interception by forcing him from the pocket and not giving him a short option.
  • Rookie LDE Jabal Sheard is a player in both the run game and rushing the passer (granted, the Dolphins offensive line).  David Stewart may have his hands full.
  • RB Peyton Hillis missed the game with strep throat. RB Montario Hardesty getting almost all of the carries in his absence. Hardesty looked OK at times, but the Browns did not have a sustaining running game. They were primarily a passing team.
  • The Browns are not a 4-man pressure team. They blitz to rush the passer, and they have to.
  • This year’s first round pick, DT Phil Taylor, and DT Ahtyba Rubin can be tough to move, but they’re not immovable.  The Dolphins had success running between the tackles, as RB Daniel Thomas aggressively attacked the line of scrimmage. Granted, that’s not what Chris Johnson does these days.
  • CB Joe Haden, last year’s first-round pick, is a player. He spent most of the game on Brandon Marshall, who had a pretty quiet day (4-43 on 7 targets). Henne threw the ball a lot and with a good bit of success, but it was to secondary receivers against other defenders.
  • McCoy will throw the ball downfield occasionally, in schemed situations, but does not drive the ball effectively. His 33-yard touchdown pass to Cribbs would’ve been intercepted if the DB had ball skills, and even the game-winning 14-yard pass to Massaquoi was only complete because the DB jumped and whiffed.
  • Browns wide receivers were pretty unimpressive. TEs got a lot of use in the passing game-Watson and Moore can both be threats, but Miami’s linebackers, including Karlos Dansby, looked glacially slow.
  • Eight of 10 Miami possessions ended in Browns territory. Red zone struggles, a long missed field goal, and a turnover prevented them from scoring more points, but they did move the ball against the Browns.

Overall, I was mildly optimistic about the Browns’ performance this year, but beyond some defensive idiocy and the red zone issues, I thought last week the Dolphins were the better team and the Browns were mediocre. I’d rate this Sunday’s game as pretty much a tossup, with a slight advantage to the Browns simply because they’re playing at home.